Most conversations I have about dyslexia revolve around school. People want to know how dyslexia affects my schoolwork and grades, especially now that I’m a junior in college.
However, my dyslexia doesn’t go away after I’m done with classes for the day. It doesn’t go away when I’m working as a student teacher or interning with an employer outside of school. And it won’t go away when I graduate. Dyslexia affects me in all parts of my life.
When I was younger, my parents and teachers helped me get support and accommodations. Together, we built systems for me to succeed in school. But in daily life, I’ve had to build my own systems through trial and error.
One thing that helps is being open about my learning differences. I’ve found that when I tell others about how dyslexia affects me, they’re more accepting and supportive.
In that spirit, here are six surprising ways dyslexia affects me:
1. Texting can be hazardous.
Because of dyslexia, spelling is often difficult for me. I use spellcheck, of course. But sometimes my spelling is so off that even spellcheck doesn’t recognize what I’m trying to type.
For example, I’m famous among my friends for texting “we should defiantly hang out” when I mean to text “we should definitely hang out.” I’m usually able to use Google to find the words I’m trying to spell and avoid these errors. But when I’m in a rush, awkward texting mistakes are a given.
2. I get mistaken for a robot.
To fight spam, many websites ask you to verify that you’re not a robot by reading squiggled text and then typing it out. This is called captcha.
The problem is I can never read the squiggled text correctly. So when there’s a captcha, I have to use the audio option. But playing audio gets awkward when you don’t have your headphones and are sitting in a coffee shop, trying to buy concert tickets for your favorite band.
Dear captcha, I promise I’m not a robot. I’m just dyslexic.
3. When booking tickets online, I’m one letter away from a red-eye.
There’s only a one-letter difference between “a.m.” and “p.m.” So when booking flights and bus tickets, I have to be super careful. I double- and triple-check that I have the right date and time. I find that, with dropdown menus, it’s very easy for me to book a 2:30 a.m. red-eye, when I mean to take a 2:30 p.m. flight.
I have a similar problem with mixing up dates in online calendars. I do use them to set simple reminders on my phone and computer, but I prefer to keep a paper and pencil planner to write down important dates.
4. When using Google Maps, I get off on the wrong foot.
I sometimes mix up left and right. I even wear a ring on my right hand to remind me. I’m also horrible with directions.
To compensate, I use Google Maps to give me walking directions to get where I need to go. Google Maps directions are great, except for one thing: they don’t tell you which way to turn when leaving a building. So, it’s not uncommon for me to start off walking in the wrong direction.
5. I’m not winning any awards for small talk.
I like to chat with friends. But because of my dyslexia, I can have trouble finding the right words. Sometimes in the middle of a conversation, I’ll lose track of what I’m saying.
My friends like to tease me that if I were a sitcom character, my catchphrase would be: “I was going to say something but I forgot.”
6. I can get phone numbers and email addresses all wrong.
I have a hard time typing phone numbers and email addresses correctly. Whenever I have to copy an email address or enter a phone number off a website, I have to highlight it with my cursor, and then double- and triple-check it.
Once, my friend’s mom asked me to email her some pictures I took. She told me her email address, but I typed it in my phone incorrectly. When I sent the photos, instead of the email bouncing back, it was delivered to the wrong person. I hope that random person likes photos of college kids wearing graduation caps and gowns.
Despite the challenges of my dyslexia, I’ve been able to find success. I’ve done well in college and had great internships. Last summer, I even worked with the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Dyslexia never goes away, but knowing how it affects me helps me build systems to thrive in everyday life.